I just read that Mr Fred Rogers, our mutual neighbor, has passed away. I admit I preferred Sesame Street while growing up, but it would be hard for anyone not to feel some kind of loss at the news. Mr Rogers was a calm and gentle soul; his continued presence on TV was reassuring and his intentions were noble. “I believe” he is quoted on CNN, “that those of us who are the producers and purveyors of television — or video games or newspapers or any mass media — I believe that we are the servants of this nation.”
    He goes on to say, “I got into television because I hated it so. And I thought there was some way of using this fabulous instrument to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen.” With television sinking daily into a greater morass, one has to wonder if we will ever see his like again.

I apologize for taking so long on my next update. You see, I was snacking on chips the other day and dropped some cheese dip into the keyboard. Every time I tried to type a semicolon I would get “kl’].,”. And since I love to use semicolons, you can imagine what a distraction this was. Plus, I couldn’t decide whether to clean the keyboard or save the cheese dip for later.
    Either way, that’s all over with now, and I can get back to writing…
    …Just in time to admit I have not much to say.
    I did, though, find this story on CNN amusing. Evidently North Korea is declaring that if attacked, they will respond in song! The singing of this song will fill “imperialists and enemies with mortal terror.” No, not “I Know What Boys Like” — it’s a song called “Long Trip for Army-based Leadership”. This is a beloved hit of the Korean People’s Army, who also perform such classics as “Let’s Support Our Supreme Commander With Arms”, “The Wind From Mt. Paektu”, and “Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.”. Reportedly, their performances are so moving that General Secretary Li’l Kim Jong “Illing 2 B Thrilling” Il himself “warmly waved” during one of their concerts.
    According to veteran boy band manager Lou Pearlman, the group has tight synchronization in their movements, but lacks the fluidity and sex appeal that would allow them to breakout and become international stars. Meanwhile, a high ranking White House source responds that if the KPA taunts the U.S. with song, we will be forced to retaliate by sending them Lou Reed.

This is old news, since it happened last Monday, but the more I think of it the more concerned I become. In this week’s Strong Bad e-mail, it looks like Strong Sad is either unconcious or, worse, dead! Does this mean his brother Strong Bad really put that hit on him? I’m getting worried. What has happened to Strong Sad!?
    Until we find out, here is a list of links related to the world’s greatest website:

Retro Crush interview
BYU News Net interview
Flakmag interview
Columbia Chronicle (brief interview)
Legion interview
Run Devil Run interview
Lympher’s interview
Homestar Runner’s Live Journal
Fhgwhgads: A H*R Community
“Apple Commercial” Flash tribute
A one-of-a-kind message from the man himself

Internet Theft     In the past I have been vocal on the abuses of P2P file sharing and pirated music. Now the problem has become exponentially worse. You, the thieving hordes of the World Wide Web, have crossed from sharing and “swapping” audio files to sharing information. Hundreds upon hundreds of personal websites, known […]

I just discovered a horrible development. The prices have risen in the snack machines here at work. The price of a 1½ oz bag of chips has gone up a nickel since yesterday. Now it’s at the ungainly amount of 80¢. Making matters worse, candy bars have gone up a whole dime, to 75¢. To say I am devastated would be an understatement.
    Offsetting that is some better news, and something I should’ve made note of over the weekend. Frolixo, a frequent commentator here, as well as coworker, bon vivant, and babe-magnet, has been hired as the new weekend columnist for the internationally renowned humor website Something Awful.
    Speaking of SA, hats off to the mods and posters in the FYAD forum who banded together to save someone’s life last night! I didn’t see the message board thread till this morning but reading the guy’s announcement, how posters IM’d him to keep in contact, found out his name and possible addresses, traced his IP address and contacted Road Runner, and how the authorities finally found him in time and got him to a hospital was chilling, nerve-wracking, exciting, and ultimately very touching. Three cheers for the Internet. It’s not quite so cold and heartless after all.
    Proof. Pure and simple. Evil from the Eighth Dimension…

It’s been a small piece of forever since I updated my Gadgets page. It’s not that I haven’t been buying gadgets — far from it — it’s just that I haven’t had time to experiment with them. The great interregnum was probably caused when I bought a Sony Minidisk player. I kept meaning to do a side-by-side comparison between it and my Sony DAT recorder (which I fully expected my DAT recorder to win, simply because it can record at 44.1 or 48 KHz [DVD quality or better] while the minidisk is limited to 32 KHz and below). I kept meaning to run this test, but never did. And now look how woefully behind the times I am.
    So let’s get started so I can try and catch up.
    First off, why not discuss my Sony Minidisk Walkman RZ-M900?\n    Its benefits are its simplicity and its portability. At its best, it can record 74 or 80 minutes (depending on the minidisk used) of stereo audio; the record times can be lengthened by switching to mono recording or by using more compression. Sound quality suffers however, especially any extremes in bass or treble. The player is powered by a rechargeable Mi-MH stick, which helps keep the player’s design so thin. The battery lasts surprisingly long, and can even be augmented by a sandard AA battery which attaches to the bottom of the player.
    Another neat feature is the abilty to create split recordings into tracks, and further to name these tracks so that the title will display in the player’s LCD window. Be warned though: I damaged the spring on the little selector toggle before my first day’s usage was through. In short, it’s a cool toy. It makes it quite easy to record anything. It’s half the price of DAT, but then again it’s almost half the quality.

    Another fine gadget I bought is the Malata DVP-520 multiregion DVD player.

It has a built-in PAL/NTSC converter, which enables me to watch international titles. In fact, it can pretty much play anything: VCD, SVCD, CDRs with MP3s, NTSC or PAL DVDs, DVD-R and DVD+R.

There are rumors it can even handle DVD-Audio discs, but I believe that functionality has been removed. It may return though, since another nice feature of the Malata is that its firmware is upgradable.\n    My favorite feature though is the zoom. Admittedly, zooming into or out of the DVD image is not as smooth as my former Toshiba SD-3109, but my favorite aspect of zooming is being able to zoom out out of the image, shrinking the picture so that the entire image is visible on my screen. It’s amazing how much picture information is lost by TV overscanning.
    So whenever I watch a movie, the first thing I do is zoom-out so I can be assured I’m seeing as much of the theatrical image as possible! The Malata also has an X / Y conversion, meaning I can move the TV image to the left or right or up or down. Reportedly, This is to insure PAL discs are converted properly, but I’ve never needed to use it. The PAL conversion is quite good; motion is always smooth and never stutters. There is a shimmer to the image however, especially with videotape sources like concerts or TV series, but it can possibly be removed by chooing between video presentation styles (which can be done on the fly): SMART, MOVIE, CAMERA, or STILL. I usually stick with MOVIE and just live with the shimmer. Choosing others opens up a new can of worms, since then jagged interlacing anomalies show up. I’m told this does not happen the player is hooked up to one of the newer progressive-scan monitors (since the Malata can output in progressive scan), but not being able to afford a progressive scan TV I’ve been unable to test this.

Ah, Valentine’s Day — that wonderful day when we take time to tell that certain someone how much they mean to us. Or as SFGs call it, “Friday”. Special thanks, however, to Tiffany and Amber and Kristin and Kellie for e-mailing me such nice letters this week and including their URLs and webcam shots. But how come you stopped writing when I wouldn’t tell you my credit card number?
    I also heard about a cool new development today. A company called Disc Live as well as Clear Channel Entertainment are looking into the feasibility of selling soundboard CDs to concertgoers — as they leave the concert! Imagine being able to listen to a recording of the show you just saw. Pearl Jam released CDs of many shows a year or so ago and most recently The Who sold soundboard CDs during their last tour, but obviously without that short turnaround time. For an old bootlegger like me, this press release is excellent news. It’s about time performers and record companies realized that people don’t collect live recordings as a replacement for an artist’s official catalog, but as a souvenir of a treasured night or a snapshot in the span of a performer’s career.
    I am very pleased to see a big promoter like Clear Channel involved in this, and it would be a Valentine’s Day present indeed if the idea actually reaches fruition. Here’s hoping…

• People smarter than we are have determined that our Universe is 13.7 billion years old. I feel very uneasy knowing this. It’s like hearing something I’m not supposed to know. The scientists also add it was a natural birth, of a Tuesday morning, the father wanted to name it Connor, the mother wanted to name it Brianna, and the Universe can’t wait till it can drive in two billion years.
    The big question of course is what was the Universe doing 13.71 billion years ago? But, as an old college friend once said, thinking like that just hurts your brain.
    • I witnessed the creation of a new word today: “Awesolent”     Leo Laporte said it on The Screen Savers, inadvertently combining awesome and excellent as he thanked a guest. I’m unsure on the spelling though: whether it should be “awesolent” or “awcellent”.

I guess I should apologize to Peter Jackson. It seems my continuing criticism of The Two Towers cost him his Best Director nomination this morning. I guess I should not have focused so much on the negative regarding this movie. Either that or the voters are all Tolkien purists. The movie did however get nominated for Best Picture as well as some technical awards. Andrew Lesnie and Howard Shore were overlooked as well, sadly, but thank you Academy for not nominating “Gollum’s Song”. (And what does Weta have to do to get some acknowledgment for their costuming?!)
    I really hope The Hours and Jack Nicholson do not win. Nicholson gave a touching performance in About Schmidt but I can’t help thinking the Academy nominated him just because he’s Jack. If they feel compelled to give him the award too then they damn well better give Martin Scorsese Best Director just for being Martin Scorsese. (And The Hours disappointed me in that it reminds me of a Fabergé egg: handsomely crafted but upon closer inspection hollow.)
    The 75th Oscars should be even more fun for me since, for the first time, I’ve actually seen all five Best Picture nominees! All the films have merit, but as far as what I’m rooting for, it would probably have to be Chicago.